Trekking Pole Tent Reliability and Risks

Trekking pole tents use hiking poles for setup instead of dedicated tent poles. While this saves weight, it also introduces an element of risk that is worth considering if one of your trekking poles were to break during a trip.

Trekking poles are pretty easy to replace in the Continental US if you’re near a Walmart or a Post Office, although you’ll probably lose a few days getting to a town and back to the trail to replace one. But if you backpack in rural areas or in a foreign country where replacement poles are much harder to come by, you might want to reconsider your choice of backpacking tent or tarp shelter if you rely on trekking poles to set it up. Places like Scotland, Sweden, Iceland, and remote areas in the United States come to mind as bad places to experience a broken trekking pole if your tent requires two intact trekking poles to pitch.

Trekking pole shelters can be quite strong, weather, and winter-worthy, which is why so many backpackers and adventurers rely on them in the backcountry. But trekking poles do occasionally break clean through or get bent out of shape when they’re used for walking. The type of break varies widely depending on the material the pole is made with and its design. I’ve had carbon fiber poles that have sheered clean through and aluminum poles that just bend awkwardly if I fall on them the wrong way.

If you’re lucky, you can piece together a broken pole with duct tape or bend it back into shape. But it’s doubtful that it will retain the strength or reliability of its original form. Still wrapping some strips of duct tape around your poles can be a useful risk mitigation step, so you can cobble together enough of a repair to erect a tent.

A broken trekking pole can ruin your day and night if you need two poles to set up your tent.

An even more conservative strategy would be to choose a single-pole tent or tarp shelter over one that requires two trekking poles to erect. Since you’re unlikely to break both trekking poles on the same day, carrying two poles can help build in enough redundancy to see you through your planned itinerary and back home.

If you backpack with a partner and you both use trekking poles, then a tent that requires two trekking poles to set up is probably a safe bet, since it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll break three poles on a trip. But that’s not the case if one person prefers to use a two-person tent that requires two trekking poles to set up.

Here’s a list of the most popular trekking pole tents in use by backpackers today. It shows how many trekking poles they require for setup and how many people can sleep in them. You can use it to see which tents can still be used if you break a trekking pole and which tents will be compromised.

For example, tents that can sleep one person but require two poles to set up are the highest at risk from a broken pole. While two-person tents that require one trekking pole to set up are the least risky to use if both occupants use trekking poles to hike with.

Make / Model# PolesPeopleWeightPrice
REI Flash Air 1 Tent2120 oz$249
Gossamer Gear The One2122.4 oz$299
Lightheart Gear FireFly2129 oz$290
Lightheart Gear Solo2127 oz$260
MassDrop/Durston X-Mid 1P2127.9 oz$200
Seek Outside Silex w/ nest2133 oz$378
Seek Outside Silex UL w/ nest (DCF)2128 oz$648
Sierra Designs High Route2128 oz$300
Six Moon Designs Skyscape Trekker2128 oz$225
Tarptent Notch2128 oz$314
Tarptent Notch Li (DCF)2121.5 oz$539
Tarptent Stratospire 12138 oz$325
Yama Mountain Gear Swiftline 1P2128.3 oz$335
REI Flash Air 2 Tent2231 oz$299
Big Agnes Scout 2 Carbon (DCF)2211 oz$700
Gossamer Gear The Two2231.4 oz$375
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II w/ nest2229 oz$695
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirgo 22228.5 oz$795
MassDrop/Durston X-Mid 2P2238.8 oz$250
Seek Outside Eolus w/ nest2236.9 oz$398
Seek Outside Eolus UL w/ nest (DCF)2232.4 oz$668
Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo2245 oz$325
Tarptent Stratospire 22244 oz$359
Tarptent Stratospire Li (DCF)2227.7 oz$689
Tarptent Motrail2236 oz$265
Yama Mountain Gear Swiftline 2P2234.8 oz$395
Zpacks Duplex (DCF)2219.0 oz$649
Big Sky Wisp1123.5 oz$249
Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar DCF w/ nest1120.5 oz$675
Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo1126 oz$200
Tarptent Aeon Li (DCF)1116 oz$535
Tarptent Protrail2126 oz$229
Yama Mountain Gear Cirriform DW 12127.5 oz$325
Zpacks Plexamid (DCF)1114.8 oz$549
Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid DCF w/ nest1226 oz$705
Yama Mountain Gear Cirriform DW 22235.4 oz$375

Do experienced backpackers worry about breaking trekking poles on trips to remote locations? They absolutely do!

This is good food for thought as you expand your horizons to include backpacking to more remote locales where gear replacement is difficult.

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  1. Another idea is to carry a spare tent pole sized to fit your tent. For example, the pole to fit a Zpacks Duplex weighs 2.5 ounces, breaks down to less than 12 inches and costs $29.00. Cheap insurance!

  2. Should we not mention, for the sake of completeness at least, that if you are below the tree line you can look for a stick to replace your broken pole?

  3. Ouch. How did you break your pole? I bent one of mine once hiking Katahdin (slipped, landed on the pole which took the brunt of the fall and got bent by the rocks; I was glad it was the pole and not, say, my arm that got bent!) but haven’t ever broken one. I have felt on a number of occasions that I’ve come close, though.

  4. If I ever break two poles in a fall, I’m liable to also have broken something else I might find handy later, such as a femur. In that case, the oxygen tent in the ICU will have its own supports and pitching my backpacking shelter will be way down my list of priorities.

  5. I have actually managed to break two poles (Fizan aluminum) in two consecutive falls in the Pyrenees while crossing a steep snowfield. I got lucky in that they broke in different sections and I could reassemble one full-size pole for the front support of the Yama Cirriform tarp I was carrying. The rear was thereafter supported by one pole segment elongated by a stay from my Zpacks backpack. It was a pain to have to take apart the pack every night, but it worked.

    • Good recovery. Very creative.

    • An unused chunk of tibia also works as a temporary pole segment, and Thomas may have been about one additional snowfield away from that hack…

      • I’d use 2 tent stakes to make a splint and wrap it with duct tape, then use rocks in place of the 2 tent stakes. I use Y-stakes, so it would work, not so much with shepherd hooks or peg stakes. And I do use a solo tent that requires 2 trekking poles.

  6. One additional single trecking pole shelter is the six Moons Gatewood cape and net tent. The Cape is a pyramid shaped poncho so you save the weight of a rain jacket/pack cover. I used for a few hundred miles on. a PCT section hike I was just above Oppie Dilldock Pass in the three sisters when a heavy squall and rain hit one night. It held up fantastic in spite of being very exposed. Only down side was the vestibule is a bit narrow and I kicked my boot out to the edge of the drip line of the fly.

    • I’ve been eyeballing the Gatewood cape for an upcoming AT section hike but I’m unsure on how well I’d like it for my shelter. I already have a TT Notch which works well for solo use. My hiking buddy has used a cape so far on the AT for rain protection (not shelter) but he’s going to rain shell and pants for our planned hike.

  7. Are trekking poles more apt to fail than conventional tent poles? I was hiking with another person this spring and we were hit by a big wind right after setting up camp. One of her Big Agnes cross-poles bent and she had to splice it. My Lunar Solo and trekking poles were undamaged.

    • If you use your trekking poles to hike, well yes.

    • I was hiking with buddy who is as big and strong as an ox and generally more intelligent but he had a mental regression and managed to snap a section of the long pole on my TarpTent Double Rainbow. Duct tape and a green stick for a splint saved the mission. Henry Shires was gracious enough to send a free replacement. He said that it wouldn’t be worth all the paperwork to set up billing for that one item. He really takes care of his customers.

  8. I find it remarkable that the authors of this article did not mention the obvious solution. If my trekking pole breaks, all I need to do is walk into the forest and find a three foot long stick to pitch my tent. But if you break that multi piece shock corded flexible 10 foot long pole for your free standing tent, I doubt you will find one of those in the woods. Now if I were hiking in norther Sweden or Iceland (where there a lack of trees), I just hike to the nearest hut, buy food at their camp store, use the spotlessly clean composting toilet, enjoy the Sauna, and not worry about it.

  9. Nearly all trekking-pole-tent manufacturers sell separate poles. As I age and increasingly find my trekking poles necessary to get around while camped (such as to water sources or sunset views), I’ve decided that the extra weight of the separate poles is probably worth it. That’s especially true after it took me over an hour to find a stick that would hold up my tent while I was day-hiking.

    To moderator–I have a new email address!

  10. Do this at your own risk.

    In an emergency, I’ve pitched the Zpacks Duplex with one pole. Who knows how it holds up in harsh conditions, but I put the line from the unused peak through the loop that secures the right hand door when it’s rolled up, staked it and all the other lines plus the doors on that side, and the tent stayed up all night in mild wind with no issues.

    The loop is not designed to bear weight and the tent could be damaged, so I angled the line to put as little stress on it as possible, gently using it to keep the unused part of the tent from flapping, while the unused doors and all the other lines did most of the work.

    With no wind you don’t have to stake the middle lines on the side.

  11. I have broken a carbon fiber trekking pole on the JMT in 2017 while post-holing. My home made tent requires a single trekking pole. I had thought about pole breakage, so designed a single pole tent. It did worked out for me.

    • Snow does a real number on UL carbon fiber poles. I once broke two Gossamer Gear lightreks in the span of 5 minutes postholing. Nice shelter. I’ve been looking for something like that. Love the orange sil.

  12. I completely broke a carpon Pacer pole on the first day of a three week walk in the Pyrenees. Although at first I thought I would have to go to the nearest big city to buy a new one, I did actually manage to do a good repair on the trail.

    I placed two X section tent pegs (msr groundhogs) either side of the break in pole. Then I wrapped dyneema cord tightly around the pegs and the pole. Then I wrapped duct tape around the lot. It formed a strong joint for the rest of the trip. I could even use it for walking and my tent!

    I will always take some V or X section pegs, dyneema cord and duct tape in future!

  13. I guess i dont understand the purpose of this article. Are modern day outdoor enthusiast too snooty to use a stick as a walking srick? What is the big deal if a walking stick breaks?.

  14. I recently priced a pole sold as alternative to trekking pole for tent. In carbon fiber I think it’s under two ounces and cost about $30. Aluminum was half the price and under four ounces.

    I only carry trekking poles in “real” mountains or when skiing. In the Eastern USA, without exception sticks are available, but potentially troublesome.

    Camping in Iceland for several nights in the 1970s with a tarp, I relied on a fence post one night, a rotten board that I found nearby one night, and an irregularity protruding from a lava boulder to which I fixed a line. Obviously, the tarp thing isn’t directly relevant to the question. Further, I wasn’t in the relatively remote parts of the island.

  15. Phillip, From the photo it looks like you broke 2 x carbon dual lock Pacerpoles? Are these any more susceptible to breakage than other poles you’ve used?

    Also, regarding tents that require 2 poles to set them up. The cross section ends up being a trapezoid, which seems to me is less stable than the triangular section of a single pole pyramid, in that it lacks true diagonals.

    • Just one in one place. You’re looking at a single disassembled pole.
      The carbon dual locks are super durable. This is the first one I’ve ever broken after using them for years. My fault really. I fell on it. Really hard.

  16. Carry extra guy line. It’s weighs next to nothing and you can tie to a tree.
    No trees, it will suck. Carry a carbon fiber pole made for it. Light and cheap!

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